Keep It Simple: Here Are The Only 4 System and Security Tools You Need on Windows
Windows is complicated and needs many different system utilities and security tools to run well — or does it? Here are the few utilities you actually do need.
Rather than making your life complicated by piling questionable system tool on top of questionable system tool, focus on what’s really important. These are the tools that will actually do something for your PC.
Yes, you do need an antivirus on Windows. Even if you never download a single desktop program and you’re extremely careful, you could still be compromised by a zero-day vulnerability in a browser plug-in like Adobe Flash or your web browser itself.
No antivirus program is perfect, so you’ll still need to exercise some common sense, like not downloading and running programs you don’t trust. But an antivirus can give you some measure of additional protection and stop you if you’re about to make a mistake, which is particularly useful for less experienced users.
Regular backups are crucial. Many people don’t perform backups until they lose their important files in a hard drive crash and are unable to recover them. Don’t be one of these people — get yourself a solid backup solution and make regular backups.
There are many ways to back up your files. You could use the built-in Windows backup features and back up to an external hard drive, or you could use a cloud-based backup solution like CrashPlan. You could also just dump your files into Dropbox or another cloud storage service, encrypting them to ensure their privacy if they’re particularly sensitive.
How you back up your files is up to you — just be sure you have backup copies of your important files so you’re protected from disaster. Consider setting up backups to run automatically on a schedule so you won’t have to worry about them.
Temporary File Cleaner
You don’t need to constantly clean your computer’s temporary files, but they do build up over time. Such temporary files take up additional space on your hard drive, wasting space that you could be putting to use — this is especially true on computers with small solid-state drives.
If you haven’t wiped out your computer’s temporary files in a few years, you may notice a speed increase after you wipe them out. Microsoft even says that having useless temporary files on your hard drive can slow Windows down. We recommend using CCleaner for this. It’s the best utility of its type, and it’s completely free.
Windows Update and Built-In Updaters
The software we use every day — our web browsers, plug-ins like Flash and Java, and even Windows itself — is full of security holes. These security holes are found regularly, and security updates are constantly being released for them. To stay secure, it’s important to be up-to-date with the latest security patches. That’s why it’s essential to keep Windows, your web browser, and especially your browser plug-ins updated.
You can have Windows and most other applications automatically install updates in the background, so you don’t have to worry about them. We include this here because some users may disable automatic updates — it’s important to regularly perform updates, even if you set Windows and other programs to alert you instead of automatically installing updates. Regularly updating your programs will give you a much bigger security benefit than using a third-party outbound firewall will.
There’s no need for third-party software update checkers — if a program needs security updates, it should automatically update itself or prompt you.
Of course, many other system tools have situational benefits. For example, you may want to use a startup manager like the one built into Windows 8 or CCleaner to manage your startup programs. The above programs are the main ones average users need to worry about — if you’re a typical user, you don’t need other PC cleaners, registry cleaners, or many of the other system utilities being pushed all over the web.